Pulling into the Castle car park, I liked what I could see of this mighty fortress of Chepstow, the Castle that once guarded the route from England into South Wales for more than 9 centuries!
Building commenced the year after the Battle of Hastings in 1067, in stone, an indication of the Castle’s importance. It has the earliest surviving stone keep in Britain situated on a narrow ridge high above the river Wye.
I wandered around the whole Castle, most in ruin's, but in some place's, they did have furniture. There is signage everywhere, so you definitely know what you are looking at.
People with walking problem's would probably need to stay on the main pathway's in the Castle area, as to go inside the ruin's, there were step's, so care needed to be taken.
Toilet's and a Gift shop are located on site.
A major exhibition “A Castle at War” which includes life-size models and a dramatic Civil War battle scene, explores both the medieval development of the Castle, and its role in the Civil War.
OPEN DAILY..... 1st April to 31st October and March 9.30am to 5pm,
July and August opening until 6pm.
1st November until 29th February 10am to 4pm
Monday to Saturday and 11am to 4pm Sunday.
Adults £4.00, Reduced Rate £3.60, Family Ticket £11.00 (2 adults and all children/grandchildren under 16 yrs). Entry is free for Welsh residents aged 60 and over or 16 and under who have a valid pass.
Plenty of parking is provided off Bridge Street immediately below the Castle.
Walking beside the river and looking back at the castle, the choice of its situation is clear. The cliffs on which it is built are so steep and overlooking the river.
A walk takes you under the two bridges , past a park with a gazebo, and boats near the Boat Hotel.
The castle is open daily from April to October 10am-5.30pm and November to March 10am -3,30 pm. Tickets cost £3.70 for adults, Concession £3.30.
The castle stands on a narrow cliff top overlooking the Wye Valley.It has changed appearance over the centuries. It was begun in 1067 in stone, which is unusual for a Norman castle, by William FitzOsbern. The oldest part is the great tower, but building continued into the 17th century.
It was fortified in the 12th century and again at the time of the Welsh Wars.
It has also been a prison and a place of industy before being left to decay . It has since been taken over in 1953.
Its doors, made of wood, are 800 years old- the oldest castle doors in Europe-, but have been removed and are now on show in the on-site exhibition.
There are three sections to the castle- the original Norman section, Tudor renovations and the Barbican.
Warning, some of the staircases are uneven and steep, especially those leading to the top of St Martin's tower.
I liked the Great Hall in the Barbican area best, and the views from the windows over towards England.
There is a car park beside the castle, 3hours for £1.30 Toilets are also available.
The Railway Bridge was designed and built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and as a tubular Suspension bridge and is considered to be one of Brunel's major achievements as the bridge had to take the two tracks of the Railway across the river Wye but as Chepstow was a busy Port and shipbuilding town the Admiralty had insisted on a 91m (300 ft) clear span over the river. The bridge had to have a minimum of 15m (50 ft) above The high tide (which can raise 46ft) The bridge span had to be self supporting because although the English side of the river is a limestone cliff, the Welsh side is a low lying sedimentary flood plane. The normal types of bridges would be unfit for this in various ways and so he came upon this unique design which then proved to be a prototype for His great bridge at Saltash
The bridge was opened in 1852 but sadly However The great engineer was capable of errors and Brunels foresight in allowing for a slight movement of the bridges suspension chains against the supports on the deck of the span in order to relieve stress led to a weakening of the structure and in 1962 the main span had over the river had to be replaced by a new lattice girder.
The 3 approach beams on the chepstow side and the cast Iron colomns survive from the original bridge.
I have put a black and white picture of the original bridge in which is used under the GNU Free Documentation License
Tintern Abbey, now majestic ruins, was Britain's second Cistercian abbey dating from 1131. It is only a few miles north of Chepstow on the A466 road to Monmouth. The Abbey is in a picturesque location next to the River Wye and Tintern village.
The No.69 bus service leaves from Chepstow Bus Station every two hours (starting from 10.10am, I think) taking you to Tintern. Otherwise if you have a car, follow the A466 towards Monmouth and you will find a large, free, carpark next to the Abbey.
Well worth a visit!
I was tempted to make this a 'Warnings & Dangers' tip after myself and another person slipped on the church's treacherous steps!! Fortunately the second time I visited the weather was dry and sunny. To be honest, the outside of Chepstow's Anglican church is almost more interesting than the interior. The walls are built with sandstone in a variety of shades. The only surviving part of the original church is around the main door at the west front. - here you will see a remarkable 11th century set of decorated Norman arches, the nicest I have ever seen on a parish church.
Inside the church is fairly plain. A large tomb of the Earl of Worcester purports to be centuries old, but looks like it has been freshly decorated with colourful gloss paint from a hardware store. The church also boasts one of the most crowded tombs (again in bright colours) of the Shipman family, not only including their 12 children but also Margaret Shipman's second husband, Richard Cleyton!
Around the north side of the church you can see an inscription to Chepstow centenarian Richard Sayes who allegedly died, in 1774, aged 105!!
Church open 10-4 but locked up for lunch 1-2pm (I think)
Chepstow Town Gate was originally the only gate in the 13th century Port Wall, founded by Roger Bigod, earl of Norfolk. The two storey stone gatehouse, was remodelled in the late 15th century and in 1524, the upper storey was made into a prison by Charles Somerset, earl of Worcester. It is now sadly hemmed in and hidden by other buildings and the windows, battlements and internal archways are 19th and 20th century replacements
In the Limestone Cliffs on the Gloustershire side of the River you will see a small square hole. This is known as The Gloucester Hole.
The small opening leads into a much larger chamber withing the Limestone cliffs. The are many stories and much speculation about it's origin and about what it has been used for such as storing Tea by the Shirenewton Quakers of for the storing of explosives by Brunel when the railway was built.
The Blue Plaque on the floor opposite the hole says that a local antiquarian called J.G.Wood wrote in 1901 that nearly 50 years earlier he had quizzed the oldest inhabitants and discovered that this natural cave had been enlarged and fitted with a crane at it's mouth to unload large ships that could moor there in deep water but could not easily dock at the shallower wharves on the Chepstow side of the river. The cargo was then reloaded onto trows and taken up river to Monmouth and Hereford. For many years mooring chains and rings in the cliff below survived to support this explanation.
Next to the Hole is a Union Flag which was first painted in 1935 to mark the silver Jubilee of king George V by some Chepstow salmon fishermen. the highest tides reach nearly to the top of it.
Beaufort Square is the heart of Chepstow, before road's went through it it was an open space where fairs and markets were held. The towns stocks, pillory, maypole and election hustings have all been there. The distance from Chepstow that is shown on all the old mile posts and stones is measured from the Coaching Inn in the Square (The Beaufort Arms)
Admiral Nelson once stayed at St Maur when it was the Three Cranes Inn.
After the decline of the Port little building took place within the town Walls and so many 18th and early 19th century buildings remain in the town centre.
The Gun is from a German Submarine and commemorates the bravery of Able Seaman William Williams in the Dardenelles for which he was posthumousley awardes the Victoria Cross.
These Almshouses were built in 1721 on the site of a Medieval Hospital. They were what we call today Hostals, providing accomodation for the poor. there was rooms for 6 men downstairs and 6 woman upstairs.
They were provided by Thomas Powis who was a Vitner in Enfield, Middlesex but was born in Chepstow. Beneath the building there is a large Wine celler which is entered via the street.
There has been a bridge at Chepstow for Hundreds of years, at least since the Romans built one which was about half a mile further up the river than the present one.
The Present Iron Bridge is the 6th bridge to be built on that site, it's predecessors would have been constructed of wood and so would not have lasted much longer than 30 - 50 years before they would need major repairs and so many towns folk would give donations and leave money in their wills to fund the repairing or rebuilding of the bridge which was often described in old records as "fallen into great ruin and decay and likely to fall"
The rebuilding of the Bridge was always difficult due to the extraordinarily high rise and fall of the tide which can rise up to 46ft.
The present Bridge has been constructed of cast Iron on stone piers and was built in 1816 and it has had to be strengthened several times, near the foot of the bridge near the bridge Inn is a marker the records the highest tide of the 19th c.
We walked over the bridge and down a lane hoping to get some good views of the castle but you cannot get to the side of the river, however I have read that if you go up the path which comes down opposite the bridge (follow the Offa's Dyke footpath signs) it takes you up to the Cliffs from which you can get some great views of Chepstow and the Castle.
The Norman Priory of Chepstow was founded between 1067 and 1071 by William Fitzosbern, Earl of Hereford and was built at thesame time as the Norman Keep of the Castle. After the suppresion of the Priory in 1536 the church sufferred much destruction but the grandeur of the early Norman church can still be seen today. The most impressive feature of the exterior is the richly decorated Norman doorway with three of the same period above. Inside you can see the remains of an arch and a pillar in the chancel but mainly the architecture is a mixture of later restorations following the collapse of the central tower in 1701. There are several noteworthy tombs; the tomb of the second Earl of Worcester and the brightly decorated jacobean tomb of Margaret Cleyton, her husband and twelve children. Nearby you will find the workings of an 18th Century clock which have been preserved within the clock. As you leave the Church you will see a really old tomb stone covered by a protective red carpet. This is the tomb of Henry Marten, close friend of Oliver Cromwell. Marten was imprisoned for many years in a tower in Chepstow castle which now bears his name, until his death in 1680.
The Church is open daily to visitors.
There are a number of interesting historical trails which you can follow while walking around Chepstow. We bought a book from the Tourist information centre but you can also follow one of the many trails by following the plaques built into the pavements and walls at strategic points around the town.
The great iron bridge which links Wales with England was constructed in 1816 and is an excellent example of elegant cast iron engineering. It succeeded a number of wooden predecessors, which had been built on or near the site. Interestingly there are a number of paintings in Chepstow museum which show some of the bridges which spanned the river in years gone by.
The medieval town of Chepstow was protected on the North and East sides by the River Wye. The Town Wall, or Portwall was constructed in the late 13th Century to protect the town on the landward sides. In total the wall was over 1,100 metres long, 2 metres thick and 4.6 metres high. Originally at least a dozen towers about 8.2 metres in diameter were built along the wall and around the outside was a dry moat about 5.5 metres wide and 1.5 metres deep. Much of the wall is still in an excellent state of preservation.